HAVING had our hands on more steering wheels than we can count, we here at Fast Times tend not to become personally attached to the vehicles we test, but there is something about the Volkswagen Touareg Sport Edition that encourages anthropomorphism.
“It looks angry,” my wife and copilot Julie observed when we picked up the test unit from Volkswagen BGC.
“Maybe it’s tired of being called ‘the poor man’s Cayenne’,” I said, referring to the Touareg’s platform-sharing cousin from Porsche.
The comparison is invidious, but isn’t fair to either of the outstanding German crossovers, and in the case of the Touareg, the addition of a sport package takes an already very good vehicle and makes it an excellent one.
The sport package features – which essentially consist of silver-toned chin spoiler, roof rails, and rear lower skirt, along with 20-inch alloy wheels (which make the extra P200,000 more than worth it) – give the Sport Edition a more aggressive look than the “standard” Touareg.
The sport package accentuates the Touareg’s forward-leaning stance, and nicely complements the raked look of the front end, with its swept lamp clusters and black bumper end vents. In profile, the Touareg has a nice line, with an attractive curve carried to the rear by the roof rails, ending in a slightly shorter-profile rear, which along with distinctive quarter-panel bulges housing the rear lamps, eliminates the blocky look that plagues many manufacturer’s attempts at building an attractive crossover.
While exterior colors are a matter of preference, our test vehicle in Oryx White – almost a mother-of-pearl finish – was the perfect counterpoint to the black, silver, and chrome trim and accents. Other colors available include Cool Silver Metallic, Deep Black Pearl (apparently a preferred color for the Sport Edition), and Canyon Grey Metallic.
The Touareg Sport Edition is not the first Volkswagen we’ve tested here at Fast Times, yet it bears mentioning again that one thing that consistently impresses us is Volkswagen’s attention to detail in interior design and build. The interior overall, while not ostentatious, has a classic look highlighted by leather seats and steering wheel, and is constructed with the typical German obsession for sub-atomic scale tolerances.
Comfort is increased with four-zone climate control, with a rear console provided for the rear-seat passengers. The cabin is spacious for four adults, and comfortable for five; center rear seat passengers might find themselves a little more restricted due to the presence of the console and rear tunnel, but the space is more generous than in other Volkswagen models such as the Touran, and is not a serious shortcoming in the Touareg.
Up front, comfort for the driver and front-seat passenger is downright luxurious, while at the same time giving the Touareg a sporty feel. Ergonomically, the control layout is thoughtfully designed, with everything in an easy-to-reach location and placed where it intuitively ought to be for a driver who does not wish to divert his eyes from the road for any longer than necessary, or at all. The center touchscreen display is complemented by an LED information display between the large speedometer and tachometer gauges. Driver focus on what’s ahead is further helped by some automatic features, such as an automatic setting for the exterior lamps, and automatic rain sensors.
The wide range of controls at the driver’s fingertips might be a little daunting at first; for example, the steering column-mounted lever for wiper/washer controls has nine separate functions. A bit of exploration of what all the various switches do before setting out on that first drive in the Touareg is definitely recommended.
Another attractive feature of the Touareg doesn’t become apparent until nightfall. In the dark, every switch is illuminated with red LEDs, giving one the impression that he is piloting an airplane rather than a car.
Born to run
“Piloting” is not an inappropriate verb to apply to the Touareg Sport Edition by any means, given its formidable mechanicals. The Touareg is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 CRDI turbocharged diesel developing 242 horsepower between 3,800 and 4,400 rpm, and 550 Newton-meters of torque between 1,750 and 2,750 rpm. The potent mill is mated to an eight-speed automatic – which has a manual sport mode – and Volkswagen’s 4MOTION full-time all-wheel drive system, a package that can launch the Touareg Sport Edition from a standstill to 100 kph in 7.6 seconds. At least according to Volkswagen; in a live test, the Touareg Sport passed 100 in just over 7 seconds, but that result probably should be considered unofficial.
All this power is kept under complete control by an adjustable air suspension and ride height controls, and an electronic stabilization program that provides anti-slip regulation, electronic differential lock – a feature that makes the all-wheel drive Touareg not feel like an all-wheel drive during fast maneuvers – and engine drag torque control.
It is here where the Touareg Sport Edition’s 20-inch wheel package earns its price; even on a set of tires with close to 20,000 kilometers on them, with the suspension switched to the “Sport” setting (which lowers the front end and makes the shocks a bit stiffer) the Touareg flicked through the turns on the Ternate-Nasugbu Highway at speed like a much smaller car.
Safety features of Touareg earned special recognition in our test, and earned our borrowed Sport a name – “Opsie,” a moniker inspired by the sensitivity of its Optical Parking System, or OPS. The sensors have wide-angle coverage at both the front and rear of the vehicle, and is so diligent in monitoring the vehicle’s surroundings that it can actually become a little distracting when in Manila’s spirit-wilting traffic congestion, thanks to ill-mannered motorcycles weaving through cars queued at stoplights. The system is complemented by a rear camera that activates automatically when the car is put in reverse, and while all-around vision is excellent – we learned to drive when the most sophisticated vision aid in a car was called a “mirror” – it is a helpful aid in tight places, such as parking garages.
If it is any indication of how impressed we were after spending a few days with the Touareg Sport Edition, the first thing your reviewer did upon returning the vehicle was to ask (however unrealistically optimistic the question may have been) the wonderful folks at Volkswagen BGC about financing. The base model Touareg has an SRP of just under P4.1 million, but in our opinion, the P4.3 million Sport Edition with its 20-inch wheel set-up is an even better deal. With outstanding looks, comfort, and features, power to spare and unmatched driveability, the Touareg Sport Edition is more than an equal for even higher-end vehicles in its class.